Estate planning, wills and succession

Withers has been acting for successful people and their families for more than a century. We work with families down the generations, and we know how important succession planning is to them.

Nobody feels particularly excited at the prospect of making a will, but once it’s complete you can feel reassured that you have certainty as to what will happen to your family and assets in the future. We always take a bespoke approach, helping you to structure your wills and trusts according to your particular needs and objectives. You may for example wish to give to charity in a tax-efficient way, or to prevent the next generation from inheriting too much, too soon. We can also help to create structures to protect family assets from creditor or divorce claims against heirs.

The law on succession varies enormously from country to country, but with 150 lawyers worldwide concentrating on this area, we can offer sophisticated advice on how to minimize taxes and risk, while maximizing flexibility for the family. This may involve lifetime gifts, living wills, post-mortem estate planning and inter-generational transfer of wealth.

Our team includes recognized leaders in UK and US tax and estate planning, elder law, probate, landed estates, philanthropy and trusts. We have a particular strength in issues related to the UK and US, with the largest number of US-qualified lawyers in London, as well as a presence in Hong Kong and Singapore. In addition we have Hong Kong, Singapore, Japanese and Australian qualified lawyers, experts on Italian succession, and Russian lawyers who frequently advise families from Asia, Russia and the CIS.

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Thinking ahead

Failing to plan your estate carefully could cost you dearly. Most people understand the importance of having a will and estate plan, yet despite this, 60% of the UK population still relegate estate planning to the ‘too difficult’ pile and never create a will.

An affordable will and estate plan for you and your family

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A client using a Living Will

Often, Living Wills are associated with people who wish to refuse treatment should they become seriously ill and lack capacity to make decisions. However in one instance we acted for a seriously disabled client who used her Living Will to request maximum treatment, preserving her life as long as possible.

The estate of a leading British retailer

We assisted in the probate and estate administration of a member of the family behind a successful British retail business. The deceased was UK resident ‘non dom’, but with arguable common law domicile, and survived by a spouse, children and grandchildren. He held assets globally, some within a complex web of lifetime trusts, and had made wills in different jurisdictions. We managed the difficult domicile claim, co-ordinated probate applications globally and balanced the dynastic plan for the business.

North Asian high-net-worth individual

Our client based in North Asia, and with assets over US$1b across Asia and the UK, was concerned about his succession planning, particularly in regards to the impact of this on a child of the family with a disability. We worked with him to navigate the legal issues involved across those multiple jurisdictions and to create a plan that always had the needs of the family at the forefront.

North Asian family

Assisting and advising this family based in Taiwan with extensive business interests and assets in multiple jurisdictions. Advice includes a multi-disciplinary team covering succession planning, immigration and cross-border investment.

Pre-immigration planning for Brazil-USA move

A Brazilian private equity fund executive requested advice on pre-immigration planning in connection with his relocation to the United States. We helped to coordinate the timing of his tax recognition from certain transactions to occur while he was still a Brazilian tax resident and others to be taxed after becoming a US tax resident. We also established different types of trust structures to protect assets from US estate tax, a foreign trust to defer income taxation on existing carried interests, and a traditional US estate planning trust for carried interests not yet paying out.

Succession planning

Succession planning for leading hedge fund and private equity managers with assets in or connections with Italy, France, Switzerland and the US, among other jurisdictions.

Estate of a 32 generation family

We advised a family on the most appropriate structure to hold an estate that has been in the family for 32 generations. A complex matter, the family wanted the estate to be held by all of their children rather than one ‘heir’ but for the ‘rules’ of ownership and transfer to be clear and fair and ensure that the family asset is retained.

Settlement agreement between heirs

Negotiating and implementing a settlement agreement between heirs, based both in the UK and in Italy, for a high net worth individual in the context of a succession whereby Italian forced heirship rules applied.

Reorganization of estate

A reorganization of the estate of a US citizen with a valuable Cayman shareholding resulted in an immediate saving for his family of over £100m tax. Involving private client as well as the family teams in the US and UK.

Cross border trust and estate planning

Assisting a wealthy Southeast Asian individual with cross border trust and estate planning of his substantial listed stakes on the KLSE and UK real estate interests.

Tracking partnerships for US based family

Advising a US based family who invested together on a "pooled basis". Even though both parents had died recently, the offspring of the family wanted to continue to invest in both real estate and hedge funds, but in varying percentages. Our lawyers structured "tracking partnerships" which allowed the family to continue to invest together but in different asset classes and monetary commitments.

The giving pledge

Assisted a client with her estate plan to meet her goal to ensure more than half of her estate goes to giving back to her community and charitable organizations.

Estate and business succession plans

Developed and implemented comprehensive estate and business succession plans for high-net-worth families and individuals, which included the formation and restructuring of limited liability entities, intra-family sales, buy and sell agreements, and charitable planning.

Gift planning strategies

Developed and implemented gift planning strategies using GRAT structures and sales to grantor trusts.


Represented taxpayers before the IRS in audits involving estate tax, gift tax, and exempt organization issues.

Private and corporate fiduciaries

Represented private and corporate fiduciaries in post-death trust administration matters, including preparation of federal estate tax returns.

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